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In December 2014, a local bike shop manager approached Mecklenburg County's Business Recycling Programs looking for an outlet to recycle [or reuse] bicycle tires and bicycle inner tubes. Site visits to local bicycle shops and an extensive research campaign confirmed the lack of viable recycling/reuse options for these two materials. This research also revealed that this was a topic of significant importance to the local bicycling community.
Based on these conclusions, Mecklenburg County's Business Recycling Programs set forth to design a cost effective pilot program that would address the needs of local bike shops while generating the data necessary to determine the feasibility of implementing a long-term diversion program.
Mecklenburg County's Business Recycling Programs secured a commitment from 5 bicycle shops (located near Uptown Charlotte) to participate in the Retire Pilot Program. These shops are:
Queen City Bicycles - 128 E. Park Ave. BikeSource - 4301-A Park Rd. Bicycle Sport - 2916 Selwyn Ave. Uptown Cycles - 1432 W. Morehead St. Inside Out Sports - 1514 S. Church St. #102
To reduce costs, Mecklenburg County's Business Recycling Programs partnered with the private sector to promote the program and to obtain the equipment necessary to collect these identified materials. Program partners included Waste Management, Boquete Mountain Coffee (2113 N Davidson St), and WeeklyRides.com.
Each of the 5 participating shops were equipped with:
Based on the recommendation of the participating bicycle shops, the Retire Pilot Program operated from April 2015 – October 2015. This time period was selected to reflect a bike-shops typical 'peak season'. During the pilot, both bicycle shop staff and bicycle shop customers were able to deposit used bicycle inner-tubes and tires into the provided 65-gallon collection containers. In addition to collecting materials, participating shops were required to weigh and record the quantities of bike inner-tubes and tires generated.
At set intervals, a courier service picked-up the compiled inner-tubes and tires (via the donated burlap coffee sacks) and delivered these items to the West Mecklenburg County Recycling Center. The bicycle tires and inner-tubes were then incorporated within an existing automobile tire recycling program and sent to Liberty Tire.
The Retire Pilot program successfully diverted over 1 ton of materials in 6 months. The program was warmly embraced by the local bicycling community and was recently recognized as an "Outstanding Program" by the Carolina Recycling Association (CRA).
As a result of this pilot, local Bike shops and County residents can now take their used bicycle inner-tubes and bicycle tires to any one of Mecklenburg County's (4) Full-Service Recycling Centers at no charge. In addition, local company is now exploring the possibility of utilizing used inner-tubes as a material to create fashion apparel/accessories.
Mecklenburg County's Business Recycling Programs would like to thank all participating shops, program partners, and program participants for helping to make the Retire Pilot Program a success.